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2021 NFL Power Rankings: Carolina Panthers

Throughout the 2021 NFL season, we will compile a consensus NFL Power Rankings that averages the rankings of all 32 NFL teams.

Here is where the Carolina Panthers rank in terms of average, best and worst:

Below you will find a Week 11 roundup for the Panthers in our consensus 2021 NFL Power Rankings.

ESPN -- Rank: 17

Most important remaining game: Sunday vs. Washington

I easily could have gone with one or both of two games against NFC South rival Tampa Bay in the final month of the season, since Carolina likely will need to win one to make the playoffs. I went with Washington because the Panthers have lost three straight at home and must take care of business at Bank of America Stadium to make the Bucs games meaningful. This will be emotional because it's the return of former Carolina coach Ron Rivera and Cam Newton's return as the starter. A dud here would be a huge blow following a big win on Sunday at Arizona. -- David Newton

NFL.com -- Rank: 19

Cam Newton is back and scoring touchdowns, Christian McCaffrey is healthy and living in the second level of defenses, and the Panthers are once again a credible NFC playoff contender. Newton had a surprise supporting role in Week 10, accounting for two touchdowns and a downfield pass that resulted in a defensive pass interference call in a 34-10 win over the Cardinals. Coach Matt Rhule said Monday that Newton will work with the first-team offense this week in practice, a sure sign the former MVP will replace P.J. Walker as starter on Sunday against Washington. This all remains a bit, well, weird considering the circumstances that led to Newton's exit from Charlotte -- but Rhule and Panthers brass deserve some credit for putting the greater good ahead of pride.

CBS Sports -- Rank: 15

With Cam Newton back, they have a real chance to make a playoff push. The defense is playing good football and getting better.

USA Today -- Rank: 17

As prodigal son Cam Newton prepares to reclaim QB1 status in Carolina, you have to wonder if injured Sam Darnold -- he's guaranteed nearly $19 million in 2022 -- is already entering the backup phase of a career that doesn't yet span four seasons.

The Athletic -- Rank: 20

Steal a player: Tom Brady, Bucs quarterback

If NFL teams are stealing players, you know somebody is going to take the man who might be the greatest quarterback of all time. With apologies to the Cam Newton Reboot Project, the Panthers need a quarterback. Brady has proven for a long time that he's the rising tide that lifts all boats. Put him with Christian McCaffrey and a salty defense, and who's to say Carolina doesn't become Tampa Bay?

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